Kentucky Gun Laws Overview

Kentucky believes in the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Kentucky has some of the most lenient gun laws of any of the 50 states. With limited exceptions, a resident can own, possess, and openly carry or conceal a firearm in Kentucky without a license or registration.

However, lenient gun laws do not mean that all actions involving a firearm are legal.

There are gun laws in Kentucky governing what you can and cannot do with a firearm. Responsible gun owners generally take the time to learn about Kentucky gun laws to avoid criminal weapons charges and problems with law enforcement agencies.

The Laws for Purchasing and Possessing a Gun in Kentucky

Kentucky gun regulations do not require a state permit to possess a shotgun, handgun, or rifle. Furthermore, the state does not regulate the type of guns a person may purchase or possess. For instance, it is legal to purchase and possess a machine gun that is legally registered and possessed under federal regulations and laws. 

There is no minimum age for owning shotguns or rifles. However, minors cannot legally own or possess a handgun. There are times when a person under 18 years of age can use a handgun.

A minor may use a handgun when:

  • They are participating in a shooting competition
  • They are at a safety course
  • Using the handgun at a hunting course
  • They are at an established shooting range for target practice
  • They are trapping or hunting and have a valid license to do so
  • They travel to and from any of the above activities 
  • They are on private property and have permission from an adult to have the handgun

When someone wants to purchase a gun, they can buy shotguns, rifles, handguns, and other firearms from importers, licensed dealers, private parties, and manufacturers. However, sellers, including public and private sellers, are prohibited from transferring a firearm to a convicted felon. A person could be charged with a criminal offense if they sell or transfer a gun to a felon.

Is Kentucky an Open Carry State?

Kentucky is an open carry state. The Kentucky open carry law allows anyone 18 years of age or older to carry a firearm, meaning you can openly carry a gun in most places. For example, you can openly carry guns in state parks, roadside rest areas, and state and national forests. You can openly carry a gun in stores, entertainment venues, and sporting events. 

However, there are some important exceptions. Government employers may ban guns from the workplace. Also, open carry is prohibited in establishments that primarily serve alcohol unless individuals is carrying their firearm into the establishment’s restaurant section.

A private or public college, university, or another post-secondary education facility can ban concealed weapons on their property. Likewise, private businesses may ban concealed weapons by posting a sign.

If you intend to carry a firearm openly, it is wise to study all the specific exemptions to open carry laws. While there are few restrictions for open carry in Kentucky, you want to ensure you obey the law regarding those restrictions. 

Do I Need a Concealed Weapons Permit in Kentucky?

The Kentucky concealed carry law permits anyone over the age of 21 years to lawfully carry a concealed firearm. There is no requirement to obtain a Kentucky concealed carry permit. However, Kentucky does have a concealed carry deadly weapon (CCDW) license that many gun owners obtain.

The CCDW covers firearms and other types of concealed weapons, including Nunchaku, knives, and brass knuckles. People choose to obtain a CCDW because it is recognized in 37 states. Therefore, if you want to carry your gun outside the state, you need a Kentucky CCDW or a concealed weapons permit that is valid in the state you are visiting. 

You must be a resident of Kentucky to apply for and obtain a CCDW, and you must also:

  • Be a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Have demonstrated your competence with a firearm
  • Be at least 21 years of age or older
  • Have no conviction related to a controlled substance within three years of applying for the license 
  • Be eligible to possess a firearm under federal law
  • Not have been committed to a facility for abuse of a controlled substance within the past three years
  • Be current with any child support payments or have arrearage less than the total of one year of non-payment and complied with all subpoenas or warrants related to child support or paternity actions
  • Not have two or more convictions for DUI within the past three years
  • Have no fourth-degree assault conviction within the past three years
  • Have no third-degree terroristic threatening convictions in the past three years
  • Not have been committed as an alcoholic within the past three years

Proving competency with a firearm requires applicants to complete a firearms safety course. The course must be taught by an approved instructor and is capped at a maximum of eight hours. A marksmanship test is included in the safety course requirements. 

Individuals can apply for a CCDW online.

Are There Different Laws for Carrying a Concealed Weapon in Kentucky?

There are many places where concealed weapons are prohibited in Kentucky. You must know these places to ensure that you do not violate CCDW laws. For example, concealed weapons are prohibited in all courthouses, police statements, and childcare facilities.

Concealed weapons are also prohibited in elementary and secondary schools, certain areas of the airport, and places that are prohibited by federal law. Even though a CCDW is not required to carry a concealed gun in Kentucky, it is wise to take the class and obtain the license. The instructor covers the laws and rules for carrying a concealed weapon so that you understand when and where you cannot carry your gun.

Common Weapons Charges in Kentucky

There are several types of common weapons charges that many people face. In some cases, a person may not be aware that he or she is breaking gun laws. However, ignorance of the law is not a defense.

Common weapons charges include:

  • Illegal possession of a firearm or gun
  • Selling or providing a gun to a felon
  • Defacing a gun
  • Possessing a gun on school property
  • Possession of a handgun by a minor
  • Selling or providing a handgun to a minor

If you are arrested for a gun charge, the arrest is not the time to argue your innocence or your right to bear arms. Instead, exercise your other constitutional right to remain silent. 

Ask for your lawyer and stop talking. Talking to the police can only make matters worse. If they arrest you, they believe you are guilty. Nothing you say will change that, but what you say could make it more difficult to defend yourself against weapons charges. 

Contact Our Kentucky Weapons Charges Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Many weapons charges in Kentucky result in severe criminal penalties for a conviction. If you are facing a Kentucky firearms charge, contact our Lexington criminal defense lawyer for a free consultation.